The finals of the very successful annual BKS-SAICE International Bridge Building Competition organised by the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) were held at the St Albans College in Pretoria. BKS has once again provided the major sponsorship for the event – for the fourth year running!

This exciting competition attracts the participation of approximately 600 schools countrywide, as well as in Namibia and Zimbabwe. The finalists from all the regions, organised by the SAICE Branches countrywide, then compete for the much sought-after shield, the cash prize for team members and their schools. This year’s finalists, apart from the local teams, came from as far afield as Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, East London, Empangeni, Ficksburg, Harrismith, Kimberley, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage, Upington, as well as two teams from Zimbabwe.

The 2012 winners are the Domino Servite High School from Pietermaritzburg with their bridge weighing 130 g, which carried 87 kg before it succumbed! The team consists of Janek Stegen, Luke Allen and Johnny Pop. The second place went to Merrifield College in East London with team members Dakota Corbett, Mitchell Struwig and Vasco Mendes. Their bridge weighed 160 g and carried 75 kg. Technical High School Daniel Pienaar from Uitenhage came third with a bridge weighing 155 g that withstood 63 kg before destruction. Their team consists of Frank Ferreira, Nicholas Coetzee and Anroe Steyn-Clulow. For the three teams to reach the winning marks of 156, 114 and 105 respectively, aspects such as aesthetics, the mass of the bridge and ultimately the weight-bearing capacity determined the winning bridge.

On the Saturday the teams travelled on the Gautrain – from Hatfield to the Centurion station from where they were taken to the John Vorster Viaduct to learn more about the rapid rail link from BKS’ Zaan-Marie Vivier– something those who came from afar could only dream of. 

On the day …

An informative presentation by a civil (bridge) engineer on the stresses and strains to be taken into account when designing a bridge precedes the action. This year Anton Fourie from BKS had the honour of doing this presentation. Each team consists of three learners – usually from Grade 9 to 12. The bridge building kits contain 25 sticks of 3 mm nominal thickness, glue and a little string. Construction is done according to a technical briefing given on the day. The teams then get down to the gruelling business of planning, designing, measuring, cutting dowel sticks and constructing the bridge by gluing everything together to form sturdy bridge structures, while racing against the clock towards tools-down time!

The meticulously constructed bridges are then left to dry for a few hours. The adjudicators complete their task regarding the aesthetics and weight of the bridges. The teams, after having exchanged daytime T-shirts and tracksuits for school uniforms, gather in the auditorium for an evening of nerve-racking testing of their bridges. Excitement mounts, hopes soar and some dreams are shattered as one team after the other bring their bridges forward for testing on the rigg. Each and every bridge is tested to destruction to ascertain its weight-bearing capability.


The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) initiated the bridge building competition in 1991 to further high school learners' use of Mathematics and Science in an engineering context to grow the profession. It has since become an enormous success and is enjoyed by all. The bridge building competition forms an integral part of some schools' activities and is recognised on the same level as academic or sports achievements. In some schools it has been incorporated as part of their curriculum.

Because of its practical and hands-on nature, this event is SAICE’s most successful initiative in attracting learners to civil engineering, as well as promoting a general awareness of the profession. The competition provides an ideal career guidance opportunity. The camaraderie that develops among the various competing teams during their stay, gives learners the opportunity to also build bridges between people, cultures and countries!

There is little doubt that the annual bridge building competition has, since its inception, captured the imagination of learners and teachers who continue returning for more every year!

SAICE initiated the bridge building competition many years ago to further high school learners' use of Mathematics and Science in an engineering context to grow the profession. 

The aims of the competition are:

  • Stimulating learners to enter the civil engineering profession.
  • Exposing learners, their parents and the general public to the profession of civil engineering.
  • Providing a fun-based, technologically challenging competition for learners.
  • Bringing together learners and teachers across the wide spectrum of schools in a spirit of symbolic bridge   and nation building.

Although there can only be one winner, all these learners benefit by taking part and being able to visit a big city such as Pretoria. Getting to meet other people and learners from all the corners of South Africa, as well as Namibia, is an added advantage, all of which is only possible through the generosity of the major sponsor, BKS and the other sponsors. 

This initiative, in support of government’s objective to address the scarce skills situation in South Africa, has since its inception, captured the imagination of learners and has led to many choosing civil engineering as a career!

Issued by the South African Institution of Civil Engineering
Tel: 011 805 5947
Fax: 011 805 5971
For more information please contact:
Marie Ashpole on 082 870 9229 


  1. I am a teacher at the Oranje School for Girls in Bloemfontein. I competed in the Bridge Building Competition when I was in school and I would love to enter a team. Is it possible to get some sticks for practice? Can we order it from somewhere?

    Please send me some info.
    Elizca Buys or 0833116618

  2. am glad that one of my student whom i taught in 2010 participated in 2012 edition of the bridge building competition .thank so much for formulating such programme for the young engineers of tomorrow .

Leave a Reply